Technology that ‘de-twinkles’ stars is being used to pinpoint manmade space junk and avoid devastating collisions like those dramatised in the movie Gravity.
Australian company Electro Optic Systems, based on Mount Stromlo in Canberra, is using adaptive optics and pulsing lasers to locate detritus too small for conventional radar. Ultimately, the company hopes to use similar lasers to remove the debris from orbit.
Adaptive optics helps the pulsing lasers to cut through the Earth’s atmospheric turbulence, which distorts and scatters light, by using a second orange-coloured laser to illuminate sodium atoms in the upper atmosphere.
Fundamental questions about the Universe are set to be answered as a new radio telescope in outback Western Australia comes online, using multiple beam radio receiver technology to view the sky with unprecedented speed and sensitivity.
The Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), CSIRO’s newest telescope, uses innovative phased array feed receivers, also known as ‘radio cameras’, to capture images of radio-emitting galaxies in an area about the size of the Southern Cross—far more than can be seen with a traditional radio telescope.
Monster black holes lurking in the centres of galaxies are hungrier than previously thought, Melbourne scientists have discovered.
Astrophysicist Alister Graham and his team at Swinburne University have revealed that these so-called supermassive black holes consume a greater portion of their galaxy’s mass the bigger the galaxy gets. The discovery overturns the longstanding belief that these supermassive black holes are always a constant 0.2 per cent of the mass of all the other stars in their galaxy.
A new computer chip, which uses light instead of electronic signals to process information, could lead to high security, energy-efficient internet links more than 1,000 times faster than today’s networks.
CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope is already booked out for much of its first five years of data gathering, even before it formally begins early operations in 2013.
More than 400 astronomers from over a dozen nations have already signed up to look for pulsars, measure cosmic magnetic fields, and study millions of galaxies.
ASKAP was built at the specifically radio-quiet Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia as a technology demonstrator for the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
Continue reading Wide open skies for Australian astronomy
An Australian physicist is unravelling the mystery of how the hot, brilliant stars we see today emerged from our Universe’s “dark age”.
Theoretical physicist Prof Stuart Wyithe is one of the world’s leading thinkers on the Universe as it was 13 billion years ago, when there were no stars or galaxies, just cold gas.
In the next few years astronomers will learn much more as powerful new telescopes come online.
He received the first ever Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year in 2000, then the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2006, the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2007 and the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011—it’s been a satisfying progression for Brian Schmidt, professor of astronomy at the Australian National University, and for Australian science. Schmidt led one of two research teams that determined that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.
But winning awards does not mean he’s resting on his laurels. Apart from countless invitations to speak, Brian has his hands full with commissioning SkyMapper, a new optical telescope equipped with Australia’s largest digital camera at 268 megapixels. And he’s also involved in two significant new facilities pioneering technology to be used in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope: the Murchison Widefield Array and the Australian SKA Pathfinder. And in his spare time, he’s working on one of the next generation of optical telescopes, the Giant Magellan Telescope.
Continue reading Prized astronomer continues to contribute
A new instrument at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) can sample the light coming from hundreds of galaxies per night—which can tell us new things about the universe.
Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) can look at up to 100 galaxies in a night, because it can look at 60 different regions in each of 13 different galaxies, all at once.
But most observatories around the world can only do one galaxy at a time.
Continue reading Galactic shutterbug
The world’s largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is expected to generate more data in a single day than the world does in a year at present. And even its prototype, CSIRO’s ASKAP, is expected to accumulate more information within six hours of being switched on than all previous radio telescopes combined.
Such gargantuan streams of data require serious management, and that will be one of the jobs of the $80 million iVEC Pawsey Centre in Perth, which is due to be completed in 2013.